Diagnosis and therapy of liver injuries in polytraumatized patients
We examined 120 patients with liver trauma, 100 retrospectively (1973-1986 group I) and 20 prospectively (1986-1987 group II). The severity of the liver injury was categorized in 5 grades (modified after Moore) and the degree of multiple trauma was assessed by the injury severity score (ISS). Patients in the liver injury groups were equally distributed among grades I to IV; there was one patient with a grade V injury in both the retrospective and prospective group. The overall mortality was 14%, 15% for the retrospective and 10% for the prospective group. Mortality was mainly due to concomitant injuries (head injuries, ARDS, multiple organ failure, pneumonia) and only 3 patients in the whole group died as a result of continuous bleeding or because of prolonged hemorrhagic shock due to the liver injury. The defined protocol for the prospective group included early efficient resuscitation and blood/fresh frozen plasma transfusion, systematic and rapid assessment of injuries and determination of priorities of treatment. Immediate ultrasonography or peritoneal lavage was used for assessment and diagnosis of a liver injury and early selection of treatment according to the grade of the liver injury: Conservative management for stable cases consisted of close supervision and repeated investigations (CT, angiography). Immediate operation was undertaken for continuing hemorrhage. Postoperative care in an intensive care unit with a low threshold for reoperation in cases of suspected sepsis, ongoing hemorrhage or necrosis of liver tissue was an important part of the treatment. Our results suggest that death in multiple trauma patients should almost never be due to liver injury alone. Conservative treatment may be justified in some patients, but early resuscitation and operation directed at definitive or provisional control of hemorrhage with removal of all devitalized tissue and liberal use of early reoperation are essential in the management of severe liver injury.